This is just as good or even better that it predecessor, Jean de Florette (1986). It is amazing how well thought out the story is. Like a Greek tragedy, everything falls into place, everything is accounted for as fate conspires with character to bring about retribution for those who did wrong.
We feel sad and sorry for Papet and Ugolin, whose weaknesses and "crimes" are so like our own.
Daniel Auteuil, who plays Ugolin, is a actor with great range and sensitivity. He is unforgettable here as a not-too-bright peasant who suffers an excruciating and hopeless case of unrequited love. And Yves Montand, who plays his uncle is flawless, like an Olivier, as he experiences a very cruel turn of fate. Emmanuelle Béart, who plays Manon, is very beautiful, but she is also strange enough to be believable in an unlikely role as a solitary shepherdess of the hills of Provence.
Claude Berri's direction is so perfectly paced, so full of attention to detail and so unobtrusive and natural that the film just seems to happen without effort. Nothing fancy, just show what needs to be seen, no more. Use no more words than necessary, but all that are necessary. It's almost like magic, how easy it looks. The scene near the end when the blind woman reveals the cruel turn of fate to Papet is exquisite in its simplicity and its effectiveness.
In a sense this movie is a throw back an earlier era in cinema when careful attention to the construction of a character-driven story was the essence of the art.
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